|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The F-5E/F served with the U.S. Air Force from 1975 until 1990, in the 64th Aggressor Squadron and 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and with the 527th Aggressor Squadron at RAF Alconbury in the UK and the 26th Aggressor Squadron at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The U.S. Marines purchased used F-5s from the Air Force in 1989 to replace their F-21s, which served with VMFT-401 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. The U.S. Navy used the F-5E extensively at the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) when it was located at NAS Miramar, California. When TOPGUN relocated to become part of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada, the command divested itself of the F-5, choosing to rely on VC-13 (redesignated VFC-13 and which already used F-5s) to employ their F-5s as adversary aircraft. Former adversary squadrons such as VF-43 at NAS Oceana, VF-45 at NAS Key West, VF-126 at NAS Miramar, and VFA-127 at NAS Lemoore have also operated the F-5 along with other aircraft types in support of Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT).
The U.S. Navy F-5 fleet continues to be modernized with 36 low-hour F-5E/Fs purchased from Switzerland in 2006. These were updated as F-5N/Fs with modernized avionics and other improved systems. Currently, the only U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps units flying the F-5 are VFC-13 at NAS Fallon, Nevada, VFC-111 at NAS Key West, Florida, and VMFT-401 at MCAS Yuma, Arizona. Currently, VFC-111 operates 18 Northrop F-5N/F Tiger IIs. 17 of these are single-seater F-5Ns and the last is a twin-seater F-5F "FrankenTiger", the product of grafting the older front-half fuselage of an F-5F into the back-half fuselage of a newer low-hours F-5E acquired from the Swiss Air Force. A total of three "FrankenTigers" were made.
According to the FAA, there are 18 privately owned F-5s in the U.S., including Canadair CF-5Ds.
Back in the mid-1980s, Testors reboxed kits from both Fujimi and Italeri, offering modelers some very nice kits at a reasonable price. These all came with Scalemaster decals. The kits were sent over already bagged and Testors put them into their yellow trimmed, tray-type boxes.
This kit is molded in a dark green and has the raised panel lines typical of when the kit was tooled. There are two sprues of standard plastic and one for the clear parts. Each of the cockpit tubs is provided with a two piece ejection seat, control stick, and an instrument panel.
These fit into the underside of the upper fuselage piece, which also contains the wings. The horizontal stabilizers are a single piece and trapped when the fuselage halves are joined. There is no indication of nose weight and I don't think any is required. Intakes are a single piece per side and shallow. The fin slots into the upper fuselage. The F-5F has a single wing fence that needs to be installed. Note that there are holes for the wing pylons already provided and you'll probably want to fill those in as the two-seater rarely carried them. Separate windscreen and canopies are provided and you can pose them open.
Landing gear are nicely molded, as are the gear doors. There are separate speed brakes that can also be posed lowered if you wish. These planes had a tail hook and those along with the shallow exhaust will need to be installed. The final construction step is for pylons, missiles and fuel tanks. The centerline pylon and fuel tank was almost always carried, while the rest of the pylons and tanks can be relegated to the spares box.
Instructions are well done with FS 595 color references. The box art plane is with Top Gun and comes in a nice camouflage scheme. The other is a USAF plane in a variety of greys with the twin tiger marking on the fin. It has a black nose anti-glare panel and radome. The small decal sheet is well printed, but I'd be a tad leery of it due to its age. An interesting note is that one of the photos of the real deal in the instructions is actually a T-38.
Despite being old school tooling, this makes into a very nice model. Best of all, it is a pretty easy build as it doesn't have fiddly bits and it is still widely available. I found several on-line for under $20 and you can find them at shows for $10 or less.
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